April l977 – From Hope to Catastrophe
Starting at the short end of a 6-3 Council split, we felt l977 was to be the year BCA finally turned things around. In l975 Loni and John had finished first and second among all Council candidates. Now in l977, the Council majority had three seats up (Hone, Ramsey, & Davis) to our one (Ying). If we could maintain our momentum and elect three Councilmembers, just one more than in l975, that would mean a progressive 5-4 majority at last. The magic number was three, and based on John George’s tremendous victory, we were (much too) optimistic.
Thanks to Buckley v. Valeo, campaign spending was unlimited again, a significant adverse change from l975. This should have served as a hint that another crushing defeat in the l973 tradition was possible. BCA did not get the hint.
Berkeley Citizens Action
Many BCA people, myself included, agreed on a major strategic decision to immediately take advantage of the Birkenfeld decision and Governor Brown’s veto of AB 3788 by placing a new rent control initiative on the April l977 ballot. Then we would tightly link our candidates to the initiative and try to unite our constituency behind both rent control and the BCA pro-rent control slate. With rent control as the dominant issue, it would be easy for the voters to distinguish BCA from our opponents.
While this strategy had a surface resemblance to the l97l April Coalition campaign based upon support for Community Control of Police, the major difference was that electoral people thought rent control would be popular enough to significantly help us. After all rent control had already passed in l972 and appeared to be our single strongest issue.
I was convinced that a City Council campaign centered around rent control would increase pro-BCA tenant turnout and generate broader, issue-oriented support for the entire slate, thus reducing the huge vote gap between our better and lesser known candidates that had spelled defeat for Vivian Gales and Jeff Rudolph in l975. Only one part of this strategy proved successful. We reduced the gap between our top and bottom candidates from l6% in l975 to only 5% in l977. A lot of good that did us.
I also thought the entire internal calendar for selecting BCA Council candidates could be drastically advanced to allow us much more time to organize a winning campaign. The normal two and one-half month period between the candidates convention and election day allowed insufficient time for a maximum campaign effort. Having won election to the BCA Steering Committee, I obtained a favorable recommendation for my scheme. The general membership agreed to attempt the speeded up timetable by establishing the second BCA Candidate Search and Screening Committee on September 27, l976. BCA then kicked off the April l977 candidate selection process right in the middle of the November l976 campaign. My goal was a BCA Candidates Convention on the weekend of November 20-2l, l976, over two months earlier than it had ever been done before.
For this scheduling goal to be achieved, we needed a pool of available candidates from which several consensus nominees could emerge at the Search Committee. Thus, all the candidate speculation and maneuvering which I will now describe started taking place by September and October l976, well before the November l976 election.
Ying Lee Kelley was our only Councilmember up for re-election. Considering how close Ying had come to upsetting Widener in the Mayor’s race two years earlier, we expected her to lead our entire slate to victory. She had other ideas. Ying had already announced in the March l9, l976 Daily Cal that she would not run for re-election in order “to devote more time to my family and my career.” Here was another replay of l973 and l975, as BCA people had to begin the speeded up candidate season by trying to convince Ying for the third time in a row to change her mind and run. Now it would be harder.
Our next strongest veteran candidate was Margot Dashiell, who had received only 200 votes less than Ying when they both ran in l973. The l975 black boycott of BCA triggered by Ying’s race against Widener had rendered Margot totally unavailable. But that was ancient history and BCA now had its own Third World Caucus to help insure better relations between our white and non-white participants. The Third World Caucus was entitled to half the Steering Committee seats and its members also intended to be influential in the selection of Council candidates. The Third World Caucus, plus everyone else in BCA, would have eagerly supported Margot and Ying as a team. Except Margot also declared that she would not run. The reluctant candidate problem was back with us again, worse than ever.
At least Veronika Fukson was available without being pushed. A candidate at the l973 convention, an announced candidate for l977 at the l975 Search Committee, Veronika seemed a sure bet for the BCA nomination. As Loni’s good friend, with a similar neighborhood and anti-war background, people thought Veronika would be a very effective Loni Hancock protege on the Council.
A Balanced Slate???
A lot of us assumed that Margot and Ying could be talked into running. That was everyone’s first priority. The trio of Ying, Margot, and Veronika could then be the consensus candidate package necessary to allow an early bird November convention. Remaining speculation focused on the final slot and who would best balance the ticket. With Ying, Margot, and Veronika, the slate included two third-world candidates and three women. From my perspective, we needed a white male for a balanced slate. It was at this very point that advance consensus, and later any consensus, or even basic electoral sanity, proved unattainable.
The Student Candidate Predicament
As usual I desired the nomination of a student candidate. This was a matter of political principle, a commitment we owed to the campus community because of our intrinsic dependence upon student votes. Under Dave Poindexter’s leadership, the Campus Community Coalition (CCC) had been so effective in the June and November l976 elections that a CCC candidate was entitled to be given very serious consideration. But, as it turned out, CCC could do everything necessary to succeed in Berkeley politics except produce a student candidate.
Dave Poindexter had the student candidate all picked out: his girlfriend Suzanne Campi, 24. Suzanne was a member of the Berkeley Transportation Commission and had worked with Citizens for Fair Traffic Management to defeat anti-diverter Measure O.
Suzanne Campi was a pioneer, the first serious woman student candidate for Berkeley City Council. Unfortunately, her candidacy generated the overwhelming response that BCA would never nominate her for the following reasons:
* Assuming Ying, Margot, and Veronika, adding Suzanne created a slate of four women. Such an unbalanced ticket was unacceptable and impossible.
* Young and tiny, having lived in Berkeley only four years, Suzanne would be an unaffordable electoral liability. Four losing student candidates in three elections are enough, already.
* David Poindexter should not be allowed to foist his girlfriend on CCC or BCA as the student candidate. Several CCC members not only felt Poindexter was too powerful, they didn’t like Suzanne personally and began looking for an alternative. (This rejection of the leadership’s choice was reminiscent of both l97l and l973 when Jeff Gordon’s support for Craig Murphy and then Peter Birdsall generated bitter opposition and rival student candidacies.)
Dave and Suzanne were not deterred by the widespread opposition and pessimism which greeted her candidacy. They felt Suzanne’s intelligence and articulateness, plus Dave’s political maneuvering on her behalf, could overcome all obstacles. Dave Poindexter also began warning people that the student candidate would either be Suzanne or no one.
I had worked very closely with CCC as an active member. The organization was very impressive, a powerful, independent, student electoral group that reminded me of the April 6th/April l7th Movements when I was a student. Yet Suzanne appeared un-nominatable. I urged Dave Poindexter to admit defeat early and save the student slot on the ticket by finding a more acceptable candidate. Balance would probably compel that alternative candidate to be male. Dave Poindexter did not agree.
Progressive Berkeley Neighbors (PBN)
“Neighborhood destruction, and ultimately the destruction of cities, comes in on little cat feet. Nobody really notices.
A house is destroyed here, an unwanted 7-ll store goes in there, traffic volumes continue to increase. Hospitals and other institutions eat up neighborhoods, behave arrogantly and refuse to take responsibility for their negative impact. Violent crimes become more expected and accepted as one of the costs of living in a city. …City government stumbles along on its own course, unresponsive to those it presumes to serve. Berkeley ‘s City Council majority has failed to direct the City and its resources toward solving these and other pressing problems.”
So began the October l976 newsletter of Progressive Berkeley Neighbors (PBN), the first new electoral organization that tried to bring the liberal center back into City Council politics.
PBN emerged from the progressive wing of the No on O campaign. Its members were primarily young urban professionals, although the term Yuppies hadn’t been invented yet. Centered in the Bateman Neighborhood surrounding Alta Bates Hospital, the PBN leadership included Guy Saperstein, Buzz Wilms, Lance and Kathy Hoffman, and Fred Collignon. Some PBN people, such as Luanne Rogers, were veteran participants in BCA or its predecessors.
In general, the members of Progressive Berkeley Neighbors were overtly opposed to the Council majority on land use issues while simultaneously uncomfortable with Berkeley Citizens Action because they perceived BCA to be hostile to liberal middle class homeowners such as themselves. Loni Hancock was PBN’s favorite Councilmember and Loni had encouraged organization of the new group in the hope that it could ally with BCA and expand BCA’s electoral base into the center. PBN committed itself to attending the Search Committee and working through the BCA process.
For the November l976 election, Progressive Berkeley Neighbors endorsed Dellums, Bates, George, Shartsis, Yes on l4. Neighborhood leaders who were more conservative naturally saw PBN as a BCA front. Simultaneously, many ideological BCA people were suspicious of the new group, viewing it as elitist and a potential threat to run independent candidates against BCA.
Progressive Berkeley Neighbors felt most compatible with the Campus Community Coalition because the leaders of both groups shared a common ambivalence in their relationship with BCA. BCA appeared to appreciate neither neighborhood oriented people nor students. Suzanne Campi had support in PBN, while PBN’s likely Council candidate, Buzz Wilms, anticipated backing from CCC.
Mark Allen of the Communist Party was again being mentioned as a Council candidate. His severe l975 defeat by Carole Davis for the two-year Council seat was now being called a campaign asset by Mark’s supporters. Having run as an independent in l975, Mark was generally considered to be a BCA outsider, a man whose popularity had declined. There was also a rumor that Mark did not even want to run again, but might be ordered to by his CP superiors. As the candidate season began, electoral people viewed Mark as totally unacceptable, but we did not anticipate him making a strong bid for the BCA nomination.
White Males, Anyone?
Other prospective candidates included several white males who could balance a ticket of Ying, Margot, and Veronika. On this list were BCA veterans Rich Illgen of rent control fame, Larry Duga, who barely missed being elected judge, and the Reverend Gus Schultz, an activist minister from the Bateman Neighborhood.
The Search Committee at Work
BCA’s second Candidate Search Committee met for the first time on October 9, l976. Its job was to “recommend a balanced slate representative of the progressive Berkeley community to the BCA general membership.” The Search Committee started with about forty members representing a host of elected officials plus all the diverse organizations previously mentioned.
BCA’s Third World Caucus functioned as an autonomous part of the Search Committee. The Caucus’ concurrence was necessary for a formal Search Committee recommendation to the convention.
The Search Committee first compiled a list of perspective/desirable candidates and then called each one to see if he or she was interested in being interviewed as a Council candidate. This process revealed lack of progress on the Ying/Margot problem. They both responded that they were not candidates. However, they did accept the Search Committee’s invitation to be interviewed.
The initial interviews of l2 candidates (and the indispensable 2 non-candidates) took place on November 4 and November 7, l976. But the entire focus was on getting Ying and Margot to change their minds in time to formally announce the early convention, tentatively scheduled for November 2l, l976.
As the Search Committee members expressed support and encouragement, both Ying and Margot seemed genuinely undecided about their candidacies.
Ying said, “I will hate myself either way,” and rated her likelihood of running as “50-50, a coin toss.” Margot, whose qualifications were equalled only by her traditional reluctance to run, mentioned lack of time, family responsibilities, and the unpleasantness of the l973 campaign. But she neither closed the door to running, nor declared her candidacy.
Having done everything it could, the Search Committee deferred all voting on candidate recommendations. It was agreed that the convention could be held on November 2l, l976 only on the condition that Ying and Margot were both candidates.
A prompt deadline for Ying and Margot to decide was set. If they both said “Yes”, notices would be mailed announcing the November 2lst Candidates Convention. If either said “NO”, the convention was postponed. The Search Committee scheduled its next meeting for November l4, l976. Should the early convention be on, we would then take our votes on recommending candidates. In the absence of a convention, we would ponder a future schedule.
Ying and Margot were then subjected to final persuasive efforts by the major forces inside BCA. Loni did her best, along with other elected officials and Third World Caucus leaders such as Will Lightborne. As the deadline approached, Ying said she would run if Margot did. But Margot still refused and the deadline passed. There would be no early convention in November l976. The new convention date was January l6, l977.
My scheme to advance the election schedule and gain two months extra campaign time failed miserably. Instead, the “silly season” of candidate selection was extended in a continuous crises atmosphere. Had Margot said “Yes” and the convention been held on November 2l, l976, I believe Mark Allen was in no position to be a strong candidate and BCA could have nominated a full slate including one of the white males. I can’t prove it.
But the early convention’s collapse revealed a major power vacuum within BCA, and when the candidate process resumed, only one BCA faction had taken effective steps to fill that vacuum: the Communist Party and its candidate Mark Allen.
Anatomy of a Confrontation
During the next two months of frantic internal maneuvering, events piled up on top of each other. Sensing their opportunity, the Communist Party now decided on an all-out push to have BCA nominate Mark Allen. This appeared to be a definite change of policy. At his November 4, l976 Search Committee interview, Mark had acted like a casual, independent candidate, with little interest in BCA support.
However, under this new approach, CP began packing the January l6, l977 BCA convention with Allen supporters. The Communist Party never had a large membership within BCA, but their most active people, such as Phyllis Willett and Jeanne Allen, were extremely well organized and skillful. They had the advantage of working for a candidate who was black, known on the left, and who retained some personal popularity.
Many BCA loyalists, such as City Auditor Florence McDonald, enthusiastically supported Mark. Plus, the Mark Allen candidacy mobilized people who had previously been active as D’Army Bailey supporters and/or members of the April Coalition’s Ideological Caucus in l973. Mark Allen was the natural heir of both Bailey and the Ideologues. “Allen for Council” would be the rallying cry that brought April Coalition style factional warfare into BCA for the first time.
Abandonment of the early convention did nothing to ease the pressure on Ying and Margot to declare their candidacies. That pressure actually increased because the vacuum they had created could not be allowed to continue. Without Ying and Margot, BCA’s leading Third World candidate was Mark Allen.
Although Walter Edwards, Alameda County’s affirmative action contract compliance officer, appeared before the Search Committee, he generated little support. Walter had served on the Berkeley Police Review Commission as Warren Widener’s appointee. On the PRC, Walter worked closely with BCA’s Jim Chanin. Now Walter was in the process of switching sides from Widener’s Council majority to BCA. There is so much suspicion associated with a switch of parties in Berkeley that it generally takes years before a convert wins enough acceptance in his or her new party to be considered for Council nomination. l977 was much too soon for Walter Edwards. Four years later he could run as BCA’s black candidate, but not in l977.
Only Margot and Ying could fill the vacuum and Ying had already expressed her willingness. Contrary to contemporary rumors, (which may have been spread by Allen supporters), Margot Dashiell never insisted that her condition for being a Council candidate was the nomination of a black running mate. It is true that Margot would have felt more comfortable with a black running mate, but she never demanded one. Since the Council majority was now 2/3 black, and as a candidate Margot was certain to be attacked in the black community as a tool of white radical interests, she naturally didn’t wish to face this misery alone again. However, Margot’s conditions for running concerned a totally different subject: a candidate’s quality of life.
For example, Margot wanted guarantees that the campaign’s demands upon her would be limited (a maximum of l6 hours per week except during the final two weeks), and that she would receive child care assistance. If BCA would allow her to be a Council candidate and still lead a normal life, she was willing to give it a try. With help from Will Lightborne and her other supporters in the Third World Caucus, Margot’s conditions became the Campaign Agreement Between the BCA Candidate Selection Committee and BCA Candidates, designed to eliminate “the insanity of past campaign practices.”
The agreement was approved without opposition and Margot was finally a candidate. Having previously promised to run if Margot did, Ying now entered the race also.
My great regret was that Ying and Margot became candidates only after the November convention had been abandoned and the Mark Allen crusade launched. Now, objectively, it was too late for them or their allies to control events.
Neither Ying nor Margot wanted Mark Allen as a running mate. But already Mark had achieved such strong support in the Third World Caucus that Ying and Margot felt relatively powerless to fight him directly. CP handled Ying and Margot’s entry into the race with ease. Mark’s partisans now declared that the BCA slate must include at least three Third World candidates, and they began to vigorously lobby for this position while continuing to pack the convention.
Although Suzanne Campi had been very impressive before the Search Committee, it remained obvious that her support was shallow and she could not be nominated. A faction of CCC was now openly supporting Rich Illgen, asserting that as a former student and the “Father of Rent Control”, he could best represent the campus community. Dave Poindexter and Suzanne then had to fight a destructive civil war within their own organization over whether the student candidate “had to be a student”. I agreed with Dave and Suzanne that “student candidate” meant “registered student”, but since I was sure that neither Suzanne nor Rich Illgen could be nominated, we had to find someone else.
To save the student slot and prevent a convention bloodbath, I had one final idea: convince Lee Halterman to run for City Council. After several years in charge of the Dellums campus office, Lee had returned to U.C. has a Boalt Hall law student. As former head of the Dellums campus campaign and the co-founder of BCA, Lee had the potential to be a consensus student candidate for the final slot. He was so respected by the Third World Caucus that Lee could even derail the Mark Allen bandwagon.
There were only a few problems with this idea: First, Lee adamantly refused to run under any circumstances. Period and final. Second, Dave Poindexter refused to even consider Lee Halterman as the student candidate. Dave was sticking his Suzanne or no one position. I gave up, accepting the reality that BCA’s l977 slate would, for the first time in four elections, not include a student candidate.
Meanwhile, none of the white male candidates in the race appeared to be gaining widespread support. They all seemed to be canceling each other out on the road to irrelevancy.
The anti-Mark Allen electoral forces belatedly mounted their own convention packing effort, but it was not well organized. The absence of a Jeff Gordon master packer was clearly felt. Worse yet, the electoral people around Loni, Ying, Margot, Veronika, CCC, PBN, etc. still did not agree on any single candidate to oppose Mark. However, a concept was emerging that the strongest opponent against Mark Allen would be someone who could take advantage of the growing agitation for three Third World candidates. But who?
Ying Kelley suggested a completely unknown former city bureaucrat, Eugene Norman “Gus” Newport. Newport’s work on the
Berkeley Youth Employment Service had caught Ying’s attention because he really cared about providing jobs for people. Ying fought a long battle with city staff and the Council majority over the squandering of Federal funds in such programs and Gus was one of the few city administrators who ever seemed to be on Ying’s side.
With Widener and Rogers in charge, it was especially unusual for Ying to find a black city staffer who appeared as her ally. Unable to get along with City Manager Elijah Rogers, Newport had quit his job. A Berkeley resident for only two years, with a civil rights/political background in Rochester, New York, Gus was now living in the Smythe-Fernwald married students dorm while his wife attended the University. Ying successfully recruited him as an apparent late entry into the Council race.
When the BCA Search Committee reconvened on January 8, l977, non-candidate Gus Newport was interviewed. Asked his opinion about the City Manager, his former boss, Gus replied bluntly: “Elijah is a reactionary.” People were not accustomed to such honest expressions of opinion. Gus came across very well and was suddenly a major candidate, while never agreeing to run. He became an imaginary, false hope for electoral opponents of Mark Allen.
With the Third World Caucus representatives not casting ballots pending the independent determination of their own positions, the Search Committee took its preliminary votes on January 8, l977. Ying, Margot, and Veronika all received unanimous approval, with 24 “Yes” votes. The next strongest candidate was Gus Newport: Yes – 20, No – 0, Abstain -3. Although Search Committee members could vote for as many candidates as they wished, the rest of the pack was far behind, led by Larry Duga and Buzz Wilms with l4 “Yes” votes each.
An attempt to approve a consensus slate recommendation of Ying, Margot, Veronika, and Gus failed Yes – l3, No – 9, Abstain – 4, short of the necessary 2/3 support. A motion committing the Search Committee to three Third World Candidates did worse, losing 6-ll-7. Beyond Ying, Margot, and Veronika, there was no consensus and never would be. The Search Committee decided to reconvene on January l5, l977, the day before the convention. Then the committee would hear the Third World Caucus’ recommendations and take a set of final votes.
The Search Committee rated Suzanne Campi Yes – 9, No – 4, Abstain – l0, the 8th best ranking. Accepting the inevitable, Suzanne subsequently withdrew and her name was never placed in nomination at the convention. No other student candidate emerged in l977.
Suzanne’s score was significantly better than Mark Allen’s. The Search Committee disapproved of Mark by Yes – 7, No – l2, Abstain – 5. Mark guaranteed himself a low rating by his response to the standard question: “Would you run without the endorsement of BCA?” Mark answered that “it depended on the platform and the slate; that if these were unacceptable, I would run.” Except for Mark Allen, every other serious candidate responded to this question with a definitive “No.” It is one of the few certainties in BCA that the Search Committee will not support anyone who threatens to run against BCA as an independent.
In l977 the Search Committee also asked candidates if they would run without the Third World Caucus’ endorsement. Everyone’s answers, including Mark’s, matched their responses to the BCA question. Thus, Mark made no commitment to either BCA or the Third World Caucus. Given his posture as an outsider, it was not surprising that Mark’s l977 Search Committee rating was even worse than the 7-7-l0 he had received two years earlier.
However, Mark’s initial poor showing at the Search Committee was irrelevant to his backers. Their priorities were packing the convention and drumming up support for a slate with three Third World Candidates. The Search Committee didn’t worry CP since the BCA convention could always ignore the committee’s recommendations.
Mark Allen’s forces now scored two key breakthroughs. Their statement of policy that BCA nominate three Third World Candidates was endorsed by both the Dellums Executive Committee (the Congressman’s citizens advisory group) and the BCA Third World Caucus. The concept suddenly had tremendous political momentum. Even though I was angered by CP’s manipulation of the process and convinced that such a slate would be unbalanced, I had to be realistic. It now appeared that only a Third World candidate could be nominated for final slot. Since my attempt to create a Lee Halterman student candidacy had been futile, the only choice I had left was total support for Gus Newport. Many other Allen opponents were coming to the same conclusion. Yet Gus was never running and said so.
The opposition to Mark was always fundamentally based upon his unellectability. People believed Mark’s nomination would allow the Council majority to crucify us politically, thus destroying any chance BCA had to win three seats, or even re-elect Ying. Secondly, there were objections to the Communist Party and its tactics from a progressive perspective.
Traditional American right-wing anti-Communism wasn’t a factor in the opposition to Mark, although CP continuously claimed during this time that he was a victim of “red-baiting and McCarthyism by BCA’s conservatives”.
Many people accepted CP’s claims and supported Mark without even understanding why BCA’s electoral wing found him intrinsically unacceptable.
The final confrontation over Mark Allen now emerged in stages. First, BCA’s Third World Caucus fought a bruising internal battle over whether to support Mark Allen or Gus Newport for the fourth slot. Maudelle Shirek was a prominent leader of the Allen forces, while Will Lightborne coordinated the pro-Gus Newport resistance. Ying and Margot continued to maintain a low profile, although neither of them wished to run with Allen. The battle was so divisive that it ultimately led to the Third World Caucus’ total collapse. Initially a compromise recommendation emerged favoring the nomination of Ying, Margot and “at least” one more Black candidate, with strong support for both Mark Allen and Gus Newport.
The Third World Caucus brought this recommendation to the Search Committee’s final session on January l5, l977. With the Third World Caucus representatives participating, re-votes were taken on seven candidates, of whom three achieved the necessary 2/3 approval for an official recommendation to the convention:
Candidate For Against Abstain
Recommended Ying Lee Kelley 30 0 0
Recommended Margot Dashiell 30 0 0
Recommended Veronika Fukson l9 0 7
Larry Duga l3 9 6
Gus Schultz ll 9 9
Mark Allen 8 l2 3
Buzz Wilms 5 5 l7
The seven abstentions on Veronika came from Mark Allen’s forces and were an advance signal of a new tactic they would unveil at the convention the next day. No re-vote was taken on Gus Newport, but the official Search Committee written report included his earlier score, 20-0-3, way ahead of Mark Allen. Allen’s supporters later protested the report, claiming they thought the earlier vote was on Newport’s “acceptability”, not his “endorsement”. As a concession to the Third World Caucus, the Search Committee agreed without dissent that the final slot should go to a black candidate.
This decision effectively eliminated all the white male contenders. Thus, the heart of the Search Committee report, signed by Will Lightborne (for the Third World Caucus) and Mal Warwick, stated:
“With the concurrence of the Third World Caucus, the Candidate Search Committee thus recommends Dashiell, Fukson and Kelley. We further recommend, on the basis of a unanimous vote, that the convention nominate a Black candidate for a fourth seat on the City Council.
… The Third World Caucus strongly supports the candidacies of Mark Allen and Gus Newport.”
BCA’s second candidates convention was held in Franklin School on January l6, l977. Once again, this was an “open convention”. To quote the convention rules: “Anybody who lives, works, goes to school or represents an organization in Berkeley may vote,” (and may the best “packers” win.)
Now began the single most bitter and divisive exercise in BCA’s history.
Everyone knew that the struggle for the final seat would be extraordinarily painful. Still, I shared a general assumption that the Search Committee’s recommendations for the first three seats would be respected. Yet while Ying and Margot were nominated by acclamation, the Mark Allen forces blocked a similar motion on behalf of Veronika. This was a shock, revealing the kind of extreme, adversarial tactics CP would be employing to try and seize the nomination for Mark.
Denying Veronika Fukson the nomination by acclamation meant that Mark’s forces were trashing the Search Committee report which had recommended her as a consensus candidate. Mark’s people neither opposed Veronika nor wished to offer an alternative candidate. CP simply intended to hold Veronika’s nomination hostage for political leverage. Their strategy would allow Veronika’s nomination only as part of a package deal to simultaneously nominate Mark. Mark’s backers anticipated that this hostage approach might be the only way Allen could ever obtain a 2/3 vote. The tactic amounted to a declaration of war against both the Search Committee and BCA itself. Electoral people were incensed because we expected to be fighting over one seat, not two.
The first ballot confirmed both the CP hostage strategy and the intense divisions at the convention. Everyone could vote for two candidates.
With 379 ballots cast (87 more than two years earlier in l975), the 2/3 vote needed for nomination was 254. The first ballot results:
Veronika Fukson 183
Mark Allen 179
Buzz Wilms 78
Gus Schultz 6l
Luis Macias 34
Rich Illgen 33
(write-in) Gus Newport 18
Neither Mark nor Veronika came close to the necessary 2/3 vote. It was clear that most of Mark’s people were “bullet balloting”, voting for him only. This tactic made Veronika’s nomination impossible. The anti-Mark Allen people were voting for Veronika and then dividing their second votes among other candidates.
The two sides appeared to start with about equal strength, meaning that CP had brought enough people to the convention to render the Search Committee report irrelevant. The 2/3 rule was now the dominant force. A deadlock was inevitable unless one side’s tactics broke the opposition’s will to resist. The only other alternative was compromise, but how could there be a compromise over Mark Allen? He could only win or lose the nomination. There was no perceived middle ground.
Gus Newport’s name had not yet even been placed before the convention. His supporters were content for Gus to appear only after an initial deadlock between Mark and the white males over the final slot. Then, with John George placing his name in nomination, Gus would hopefully emerge as the only black candidate who could obtain the necessary 2/3 vote and unite the convention. It was pure fantasy.
This delayed approach was both an affirmative strategy and tacit acceptance of the most recent agitation by Mark’s forces in the Third World Caucus. CP was now maneuvering to have the Third World Caucus permanently change its recommendation from “Mark and Gus” to Mark alone. At a minimum, CP insisted that the Third World Caucus try first to nominate Mark, with Gus to be considered only if Mark was losing. Mark’s supporters were now working very hard to prevent Gus Newport’s name from ever being placed in nomination and voted on. (Persuading potential black candidates not to run against Mark Allen may have been one of CP’s most valuable political skills.)
Following the first ballot deadlock, the Mark Allen people made their initial attempt to have Allen and Fukson jointly nominated by acclamation. This second ballot effort was defeated Yes – l69 to No – l3l, failing to obtain a 2/3 vote. There were also many uncounted abstentions.
Prior to the third ballot, Buzz Wilms of Progressive Berkeley Neighbors withdrew, urging his supporters to vote for Veronika, which most of them were already doing. Luis Macias withdrew in favor of Mark Allen.
Gus Newport now arrived at the convention, but he was still only a write-in candidate as the ballot was reduced to the top four remaining contenders: Fukson, Allen, Schultz, and Illgen. With 35l votes cast and 234 (2/3) needed to nominate, the third ballot results were:
Veronika Fukson l94
Mark Allen l79
Gus Schultz 6l
(write-in) Gus Newport 60
Rich Illgen l7
This was a continuation of the first ballot deadlock, with the addition of a respectable Newport write-in vote. The electoral forces’ strategy now called for John George to formally nominate Gus to see if we could erode Mark Allen’s support.
At this point caucusing took place and Mark Allen’s people completely outmaneuvered the electoral leadership who was had staked everything on Gus Newport. The Third World Caucus convened on the convention floor with an unexpected Mark Allen majority and Mark’s supporters pressured Gus to formally withdraw. Neither Gus, his Third World advisers, nor Ying and Margot were prepared to do battle with a Third World Caucus that was suddenly controlled by Mark Allen. As the caucusing ended, Gus Newport was recognized to address the convention for the first time. Most of his supporters were hoping for a rousing declaration of candidacy.
Instead, Gus dramatically announced his withdrawal as a Council candidate “in the spirit of unity” and in deference to the Third World Caucus’ preference for Mark Allen. Mark’s forces gave Gus a rousing ovation in anticipation of victory. CP had brilliantly eliminated Mark’s strongest challenger.
Then, for the second time, the motion was made to nominate Mark Allen and Veronika Fukson together. There was no debate and no time for caucusing. But the anti-Mark Allen electoral hard core, myself included, resisted the sudden stampede and still voted “No”. The result was Yes l66, No – 99. The motion was defeated with 63% of the vote, a victim of the 2/3 rule. That was probably the most decisive vote in BCA history. It meant that Mark Allen’s forces had made their maximum effort but still failed to seize the BCA nomination. In an atmosphere of deadlock, exhaustion, and bitterness, the convention quietly recessed until the following Sunday, January 23, l977.
The switch of eleven votes on that final motion was all Mark Allen needed for victory. Had Mark been the BCA nominee, the organization would have fractured and died, so vehement was the opposition to CP, its candidate and its tactics, among the electoral leadership. The majority of people who were responsible for BCA’s existence would not have stayed in an organization that had been conquered by the Communist Party. The January l7, l977 Daily Cal captured the emotions of that convention. These are the statements of irreconcilable enemies, not the members of any coalition.
From Mark Allen’s opponents:
“The entire campus campaign organization will not work for a slate with Mark Allen on it,” said one member of the Campus Community Coalition, the student group in BCA. “it will eliminate half the precinct work and blow rent control right out the window.
This meeting was stacked by the Communist Party.”
“I’m outraged by the way a small group of people who call themselves the Third World Caucus have denied Newport’s nomination,” said Councilmember John Denton.”
Asked if she would support Allen’s candidacy, Councilmember Ilona Hancock said, “I’ve not been supporting it. I think that’s very obvious.”
From Mark Allen and his supporters:
“Now it’s up to the people of Berkeley to see if they will fall prey to McCarthyism.” (Mark Allen)
Maudelle Shirek, a powerful member of the (Third World Caucus, said she thought the Caucus had been “slapped in the face” when the convention failed to ratify their candidate Allen.
The “Compromise” – A Short Slate
The week between conventions was full of rumors and maneuvers. The dominant sentiment was a backlash against the Communist Party. It was reported that the two nominated candidates, Ying Kelley and Margot Dashiell, both now threatened to withdraw if Mark were nominated or the deadlock persisted. This was a belated effort by Mark’s opponents to fight CP on their own level. Gus Newport was also persuaded to re-enter the race.
The withdrawal threats, Gus’ renewed candidacy, stiffening resistance, plus the apparently insurmountable barrier posed by the 2/3 rule, appear to have convinced CP that Mark could never be nominated.
Mark’s people began working on other alternatives. Under Ying and Margot’s pressure, the Third World Caucus withdrew support from Allen, substituting a new recommendation for Gus Newport and Luis Macias.
The convention reconvened on January 23, l977 with no compromise in sight. Voting rights were limited to those people who had attended the first convention. The remaining candidates were allowed to speak. Gus Schultz and Rich Illgen then bowed out. On Mark Allen’s behalf, Bill Walker announced Mark’s withdrawal “from BCA, but not the City Council race.” Luis Macias also withdrew. Finally, Gus Newport came before the convention as a candidate, nominated by Ying Kelley.
An acrimonious “discussion” then took place as partisans from the pro- and anti-Allen forces attacked each other. Mark’s people denounced Ying and Margot with such vehemence that Allen disassociated himself from their remarks. Ying acknowledged her refusal to run with Allen, explaining that Mark’s CP membership rendered him not only unelectable, but also unaccountable to BCA and its constituency. In this atmosphere of heightened bitterness, the City Council votes were taken again. Spread over both conventions, it amounted to a fourth ballot.
With 3l2 votes cast and 208 (2/3) needed to nominate, BCA was still deadlocked:
Veronika Fukson l75
Gus Newport l42
Mark Allen 29
Now, Mark Allen’s forces were simply blocking any action instead of trying to win the nomination themselves. CP was running Mark as an independent candidate again, just like in l975. But at this convention they were in a position to demand a concession as their price for leaving BCA alone.
Another round of caucusing began. Mark’s camp had previously indicated their willingness to allow the convention to nominate one more candidate, in exchange for a promise that BCA’s l977 slate be permanently limited to only three people. Under such an arrangement, the truncated BCA slate would not conflict with Mark’s independent candidacy. Gus Newport was apparently the Allen camp’s first choice to be the final BCA candidate under this deal. That would have excluded every white candidate, a CP/Third World Caucus dream come true. However, a slate of Ying, Margot, and Veronika had always been the electoral camp’s first priority. Support for Gus Newport among electoral people was limited to the fourth slot. Thus, the three person slate deal was only acceptable to Loni and the other electoral leaders if Veronika was the additional candidate.
CP didn’t really care who was on the BCA slate, provided it was limited to three candidates. Electoral people loathed the entire idea of a short slate, but had no other option. So the deal was struck, and Veronika Fukson nominated by acclamation as BCA pledged not to endorse anyone for the fourth slot. BCA’s final l977 City Council ticket was:
Ying Lee Kelley
Although Mark Allen quietly supported the BCA slate, CP withdrew from BCA in order to concentrate on Allen’s independent campaign. The electoral leadership which had fought Mark Allen and nearly been defeated thus ended up in unchallenged control of BCA and its April l977 campaign. While Mark Allen still had many supporters who remained in BCA, there was no continuation of factional warfare between pro and anti-Allen forces.
Thus, the l977 campaign lacked the endless ideological wrangling of l973 when the rival factions maintained their convention hostility right through to election day. BCA’s real problem was that with only three candidates, they all had to win in order to achieve the holy grail of a Council majority.